Winnie Madikizela-Mandela dies aged 81

 Winnie Madikizela-Mandela

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, a hero of the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa but also one of its most controversial figures, has died aged 81.

The ex-wife of the former South African president Nelson Mandela, she died at a hospital in Johannesburg after a long illness, her personal assistant, Zodwa Zwane, said.

Seen as the “mother of the nation” by many who admired her steely leadership, firebrand rhetoric and courageous activism against a brutal racist regime, Madikizela-Mandela was also repeatedly accused of being linked to violence andcorruption.

She was one of the few remaining representatives of the generation of activists who led the fight against apartheid. Her often negative image abroad contrasts with her deep and long-lasting popularity within her homeland.

A statement from her family said the former political prisoner, who used her family name of Madikizela after her divorce, had been “in and out of hospital since the beginning of the year”.